Friday, September 30, 2011


B had to starve this morning before giving blood - having a follow-up on some minor issue a while back, (our two doctors appear to be very careful about this sort of thing. I don't know if that's just them, or Australia... but it's different) and to keep her mind from the subject of morning coffee, she was watching some terrible soapy on day time TV. I came through and listened briefly at it and asked 'Is that an Australian programme?' It was, but I wasn't hearing the accent at all. I rather wonder how my South African friends would find my accent had changed. I did notice Barbs' 'Kahr' instead of carr (for automobile :-)) but can't say I've noticed a lot of other bits.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's been raining again -- which is good for work, the garden, the cows etc. The chickens are not pleased and I can't say I enjoy it much either. I must be a fowl creature. Planted out lettuces today, and two tomato plants... now I hear we expect frost on Sunday.

Our dance instructress was off sick so the Scottish dancing was conducted by various dancers... including Barbs.

I see muttonbird oil has vitamin D in it. True enough in winter I don't expose much skin to the sun. Not sure if I can bring myself to drink this!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Art and taxes

If you're interested in seeing my favourite painting of the Island coastline - - the real thing is better still, the details like the tiny islands almost seeming to float on the horizon can be seen.

And we've just posted our tax returns. I am shattered. I think the only one worse off is the sequence of 'advisers' who passed me from one to the next, trying to work out HOW I was supposed to fill in their forms. I was on the phone for over 3/4 of an hour. I guess I just don't neatly fit into boxes...

And as I don't fit boxes, they ought to let me have my wish and be minced and fed to crayfish at sea when I die.

I am being cheerful tonight. It must be the rain and my cold. Or the lightness of getting that task done...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

new pots from old rubbish...

I've chopped 9 more I think 20 litre drums to make plant pots. If/when we do end up moving I don't want to lose my entire crop. My indoor seeds are sprouting furiously and showing my idiocy well - I seem to have planted onions in several seed trays with other plants... Ah well. onwards.

I have some flowers on a small tomato.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Frosts and harps

Well, it's very late, and my cold is making me feel decidedly yuck, but life goes on. I have some more Oak leaf lettuce plants to put in, and more plastic drums to convert to plat pots. I'm planting pots against the day we eventually move. One day... We had a frost the day before yesterday, which took out some of my buckwheat plants. Frost. Now? It was fairly windless and clear.

We had a call earlier to say our harpist acquaintance from the conference is braving the trip over here in her car - by ferry. So we'll be meeting her at 1 Am or so, next week. I hope the sea and weather settle!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Well,despite feeling a bit like a slightly underdone first course for a cannibal with a snot fetish, I went off with Barbs, Jamie, a friend's grandson, and Jamie's nearly 4 year old daughter, out off Prime Seal Island. My excuse is I want use Prime Seal as a setting for part of a book (which I haven't sold). I needed out, being a better real reason, but the fish were sparse. We got I think 5 flathead in all, but were treated to an acrobatic display by the dolphins - around 20 of them, showing off. And a passing seal came and waggled its hind flippers rudely at us. The young lad did get a nice Flathead, and loved the bouncing in the waves too, so all in all, a good afternoon, even if we have not much fish to show for it. We met our local divemaster (who is somewhat to blame for us coming here - when we scouted the Island, 3 years before we moved, before the whole immigration process started, we went and hired some gear from Mike Nichols and when we came back he gave us a cuppa, proving the lie of the South African anti-immigration story that Australians are unfriendly and will only invite you into their houses after you've been there for seven years. Maybe in the cities, or if you're a plonker who isn't prepared to fit in. But it wasn't true here. That, and chatting to him about the marine life, the diving and the island were all major pull factors.) So meeting us today at the slip coming in we got an invitation for a cup of tea and some chocolate cake (or staying to gut fish- guess which lost?) and in chatting he told me today he's got his site up, and I offered to put a link up to it. So: on the sidebar - my new Useful Flinders sites. Go have a look at the pictures!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


One of my odder short got put up as a freebie on Amazon - it's now ranked 27, and no.1 in fantasy - please keep it there a while. Go download. It's free.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Animated shirts

We do live in a landscape which is quite full of creatures. Sometimes the landscape is too close for comfort. I was crossing my paddock (where I have been planting, behind the chicken tractor, and saw a hissy critter. I won't tolerate them near the house and my dogs, but this one left rapidly. A good reason to mow around the house - at least you can see them. Of course they're brought by the mice. At first our cats wreaked havoc with the mice, but I think they're getting bored and fat. Robin in particular is good at catching them outside and letting them go... in the house so she can play with them... which does not always end well as she's not very 'ept' (actually, singly lacking in ept.) The last one had a topless lady in my arms as she'd lost it in the bathroom and Barbs noticed her sleeve of the shirt she'd been wearing... was moving. A mouse in her shirt made very sure that she was not putting it on. Compared to the last mouse hunt this was a breeze, as I just shook the shirt into the now empty bath until the mouse dropped out and asked for a facecloth.

I wish the dratted cats would just kill them. I don't want mice close to the house, for their snake attracting properties and their gnawing destructive behavior and little tokens. And the mobility they give to unoccupied shirts...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A bun is the lowest form of wheat.

Isn't it funny and not a little bit strange how when you're rushing frantically, everything that can make anything take longer, will? Don't ask how I still in the middle rural tranquility still manage to generate a large chaos field but I do. In theory the wind was not blowing today and I was going to fish off the beach (don't faint. I know. I've spent my life regarding standing with a telegraph pole facing the sea as a rather slow passtime, but I was supposedly going with a few gents who have a few years on me, and they like doing this. And I like to learn, and not always the hard way. Anyway, we had more wind than is a pleasant thing, so it got cancelled.

I sprouted some of my chicken food wheat (I wanted to know if it WOULD grow, or if it was milled or something) and it sprouted so now I have been putting in some wheat (and other things) out of the chicken food into the tracks of the chicken tractor. So whether I get wheat fit for harvest or possibly just more birds (hoping for chicken food is optimistic, as well as buckwheat and sunflowers and peas and garlic and potatoes and broccoli in the chicken tractor track. Most of it is not doing brilliantly, but it's basically if any yield, great. More like experiments. The main veg patches are still producing loads of lettuce, spinach, silver beet, carrots, spring onions, bulb fennel (out of season) and broccoli. I expect the first sugar snaps in the next few days. We've still got some leeks, and parsnips growing slowly, and Scorzonera and Salsify. I've got a little asparagus, and three whole red capsicums (bell peppers - way out of season) and some young tomato plants... My four artichokes are not choking yet:-( So even if the sea has been sparse, the land giveth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Someone said to me the mess the local Flinders scallop industry (which collapsed) was because the two Ronnies had left TV and were running DIPWE - who control salt water fishing in Tasmania. Having just seen their new Rock-lobster regulations, I think maybe they understated the case.

The commercial fishery hasn't filled its quota for years, so they roll over their quota to next year, and therefore, have de facto no quota. They take 93% of the catch. They went right on catching when the deal with China collapsed, meaning effectively those crays were near worthless. But they caught them anyway.

The fishery is in trouble. Can't catch its quota. The urchins (eaten by big crays) on the east coast are getting out of hand...

So in step a set of 'fisheries scientists' that make me ashamed to be associated with the profession, and between them and politicians and the powerful commercial lobby... they institute a 40% cut in the recreational bag limits.

That's right. Don't take any REAL steps (as the quota cuts they're putting on the commercial fishery amount 5% this year - which means with last year's rollover and not catching that anyway... none as far as I can see, they cut the recreational fishers - who took 6.3% of the catch last year... by 40%

Of course local recreational fishermen - and even the local commercials living here can't make a dent on Flinders stocks really. There must be a square km for every rec fisherman, and twenty for every diver. But we have commercial boats from all over coming to pillage. No benefit to the island. So now we're 'east coast' and get their 3 crays per person limit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The carrot peeling are yours, Baldric...

This home-grown organic stuff tends to get a little like hard work when I am peeling my misshapen bi-colored carrots (the bottom half, before adding trace elements, is a sort jersey-cream yellow. Add trace elements and the carrots turned orange, and stopped being quite so skinny). Anyway it does feel like hard work when the carrot peeling and trimmings are a bigger pile than the carrots. And to be honest, they're not the sweetest carrots ever eaten. Still, they're carrots, and we had carrot salad, a green salad of own lettuce, own olives, and a couple of flounder we speared (thank you, freezer) and some coquetten (crushed potato, thyme, egg, and a little flour) - all mostly from the garden or our chickens or our hunting... We must have one of the lowest food bills in Australia, and most carrot peelings (the chooks get them tomorrow).

A new favourite -heart attack salad

Take a generous bowl of young soft spinach leaves (fresh picked in my case). Fry up 3 slices of home made bacon, to crispy. Move the pan off the heat, crumble the bacon. Add (depending on how much fat you have) a little olive oil to the pan. Add a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice and de-glaze the pan. Pour salty lemony bacony hot dressing onto the spinach, stirring them about. Sprinkle with bacon bits.

The end result is a set of contrasting flavours that makes dying of those clogged arteries seem more attractive, and makes spinach very delicious. Ok, so maybe not every night but once in a while it'll probably do you more good than harm.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Lagerphone and other revelations.

The Butterfactory Boys - consisting of a trumpeter, a Ukelele, a guitar, a Tea-chest cross between a bass drum and a bass guitar, an a Lagerphone - played for us at the do I went to on Saturday night. A Lagerphone is a sort of stick with beer-bottle caps providing a noise somewhere between a bass drum and a tambourine or a stick with beer-bottle caps... it was actually brilliant, as part of a get up group of mates playing unamplified in an old shed. Songs you last heard in the sixties and seventies...

Flinders island time travel. All the good bits.

Anyway, I learned a bit about pizza ovens - including using semolina as a sliding medium to stop them sticking. Met up with a guy who had just sailed a rig-tender over to my old home (Durban) from Australia. Ate a lot of pizza.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Beyond the brink

Eugh. I'm full of snot and not achieving a lot. Raked some grass, sorted the seed for planting. Didn't actually plant it. Felt guilty about not planting. I'm still trying to figure out just where to get the ton or so topsoil/manure/compost mix I need for my second raised bed.

I'm reading Peter Andrews 'beyond the brink'(and Barbs asked me if that was what came after Andre... I am relived to say, No.) Ideas on carbon in soil. I'm a little iffy about it so far.

We have a woodfired pizza oven tryout tomorrow night, and a barbeque on Sunday. I really have to order some casings so I can make boerewors. Keep being expected to do South African food. And I keep whinging about bloody gas braai...barbeques. It doesn't taste right over gas.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

skylights, veggies

Well, Barbs just sent me a u-tube thingy of how to make skylight from an old coke bottle. Only trouble is it pre-supposes no ceiling, which I think in our climate might be a little harsh. Anyway summer is knocking in the distance, when we have too much light, rather than other way around. I've decided that tomorrow I need to get the seeds in to seed-trays, come hell or high water.

So far no sign of the buckwheat germinating. Not sure if I planted it too shallow. The weather continues foul - should be idea for germination for cool weather plants. We're doing well on lettuce and broccoli, carrots, and spinach and Swiss Chard (silverbeet), and have a little out of season bulb fennel, although it is going to seed. I see a few pea flowers, but not many. My success with sugar snaps has always been tepid. I've got some broad beans in, although they're such a waste of space crop.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Compared to the old several month post back to the old country, we're quite spoiled. We had our James on G-wotever and the sound was fantastic, like chatting to him. We have a webcam, but it's real saving grace is the microphone. Oh I would love to have my children a bit closer. Anyway, it is their lives and as long as they're safe and happy that's first prize.

The weather continues to renew my gladness that I'm not fishing for a living. The sea is chopped up and full of sea-weed. I cut some more wood today, sneezed a lot (I have a cold) and did some work...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Occassional showers

Only they really mean that. And it's winds _strong_ to variable, and it looks like that for the rest of the week. I've barrowed in some sand to the base of my next raised bed -4 barrows full of wet sand and I was thinking just how overpaid desk jockey authors are and how underpaid manual labour is... (which was not my opinion before that ;-))Other than that I planted onion seed(AKA apparently as nigella) Funnily enough the domestic goddess as an onion seed is not a frequently held image.

Barbs is off doing some mental health course, and I live in fear that she'll realise what a nutter she's been living with all this time, and call for the little men in white coats. Oz seems very big on 'courses'. Well, we're here, so we'll live with them. Or at least Barbs will. She did a food handling course for meals on wheels (involves handing sealed containers to recipient) a chainsaw course (after using one for 10 years) and now this.

I'm going to tell her I have signed her up for a cooking course... :-).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dawn wind

I was out in the dawn this morning, suffering my usual insomnia. It was cold and even the dogs thought I was crazy. The grass was heavy with wetness and flurries of thin rain stung my cheeks. The gulls were swirling inland from the sea, their mewing carried across the empty fields by the wind. September seems the month of winds. I walked a while, tasting the salt air, wishing I'd dressed more warmly.

And then I came back to the house where my love lay sleeping, and dug over a patch for onions, being glad that I was alive and on Flinders Island.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A bird the hand...

Is worthy of a tiny token of its appreciation on the fingers.

The superb fairy wren and his girlfriend are hanging at the local bug-house (aka the screen outside my window) and canoodling, and like any teenagers, tweeting about it. And getting themselves into trouble. Well, into my study anyway. I had the both of them in here the other day. They had been reading the story on screen while I had been planting. I managed to shoo them out before they nested in my beard. This morning himself the pretty-blue-chested fellow's drab girlfriend was inside the window when I came back from feeding chooks and as himself was outside the window she refused to be shooed and both were getting into a panic. So I caught herself and caged lightly in my fingers took her out (himself was twittering away to get a flashmob to deal with me). She left me a token of appreciation on deposit. It's a good thing hippopotomii don't fly and need rescuing from my window.

We're trying out an LED globe in the kitchen. It's bright but hell if you look at it. And the ceilings here very low, so it it is hard not to.

The social whirl

Yes, it's wild out here on the islands. Sorry, it's interfering with your regular updates on the tranquil country life in outer nowhere...

We had a fascinating 'tea'(AKA supper or dinner in other parts of the world) with some Polish friends who have retired here and are also trying the self-sufficiency bit. They got very excited by the idea of buckwheat or Kasha. I can now tell you that beetroot and various forms of vodka are important items of Polish cuisine:-).

Then last night was a couple of birthday parties (and entirely too much food) and the priceless WD40 (Q20 - South African) story. It's good for treating scaly leg... apparently. So some wag adds "and it stops them squeaking". At which point the scaly leg treater says 'yes, they don't even squeak when they lay eggs anymore.' Said Wag says 'You're supposed to spray on their LEGS!'

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hat's off to Australia Post and Phoenix seeds

So on Wednesday, at about 1.30 pm I (and the traveling frog) went into the post office in Whitemark and got the postal order and sent off my seed order to Phoenix seeds - in Snug, Tasmania (yes, there really is a place called Snug). Today - Friday lunch time... the seeds are here.

Wow! Most internet orders can't top that!

I have already planted the buckwheat. (not sure quite what I'll do if it comes up and produces. I want buckwheat flour, buckwheat noodles and buckwheat beer. But that may be optimistic out of one packet of seeds... and no idea how to do any of the above!

I also saw my first snake of the season. Large. Near my chickens and dogs. Unfortunately by the time I got back there with the nearest implement it had left. Yes, I know. But I can't afford to treat the dogs. And they have lots of the rest of the Island

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Spring in the air, Dave!"

says the vicar to the yokel, as he takes a deep breath of the moderate gale.
Dave (leaning on his fork and cursing the wind) "Spring the air yerself, vicar!"

We really are having yuck spring weather. I need to get into the water and it's been windy to horrid (yes, I go all solid if I don't get wet in salt water frequently enough. A shower is no substitute.)

Anyway, I wrote today, avoided frogs, and did my duty by some weeding. Another wildly exciting day. I roasted the hind half of a small wallaby whole for our dinner basting it generously with olive oil and thyme. I then sliced it off the bone and into tacos filled with fresh lettuce and tomato and chili, and added some fresh green sauce. It was fit for kings, or even really important folk.

Dancing got cancelled tonight, so my hips get a rest.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The travelling frog

See... it's been marking time through winter. But my first bell pepper is going red.

I had to go into town today, and in my usual fashion I got involved in writing, was running late, ran out, grabbed shoes from next to the door, and grabbed the bits I needed, and trundled into the great city (Whitemark. pop 170 I think) and into the Doctors to pick up a script. This is Flinders so there are a couple of folk you know in and yakitty-yak. I've got a stone in my shoe, so I arch my foot up. Off to Bill's to drop in some fennel and some olive oil. Must take this stone out of my shoe. Arch foot. Into the PO to get post and to send off a postal order for my seeds. Dratted stone! Read post, drive to pick up chicken food, park a bit far off and having crossed the road, the stone is really annoying. So I stand on one leg and pull the elastic-sided boot off... tip it upside down... and a very unhappy little frog jumps out and looks at me reproachfully. So I put him in the bushes.

He's writing a very harsh letter to the ministry of frogs.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Today was pet-food day. Oh and recapture the AWOL chicken day. One had wondered out of the 'bago, as they'd finished their food, and the front edge wasn't down hard. Fortunately the chooks are very tame, so I just walked slowly up to her and she let me pick her up and take her back. I brought them all some little bits of fish as a reward and apology. They take them from my fingers, bit pecky but it does make them very tame. I'd better feed them early tomorrow.

We minced 27 days ration of cat fish, and 21 days of dog-roo cubes cut, bagged and frozen. We like to do these in big batches so it's not an every day chore. Thank heavens for freezers. I like to live in the past but with modern conveniences.

We're having our last peaceful night for about 5...
I thought life in the country was supposed to be slow and quiet, and good for my work!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Manic monday

Well, just another manic Monday - very little actual story writing done, but 4K of writing - an interview and my post for Mad Genius club, and Monday is my baking day - I do our rolls for the week, and every second week I make a batch of bikkies (cookies) - usually Anzacs because I can do these in my sleep. This week we're having potato and oat and raisins (I cut the flour, just as the Portuguese in Mozambique did, with potato to save flour. I can grow potatoes. Have to buy flour), and potato, tomato, fennel and olive and cheese savory rolls (we alternate one sweet one savory days). I like to vary it all a bit. More website wrestling this morning but Tania is slowly getting to look like a site, which we can hopefully sell some books from. When Barbs got in we had lunch, took the dogs for a run (and they found a dead seabird... and didn't roll in it or eat it. The end is nigh.) and then went to cut some wood. And tonight I am going out with the licensed 'roo shooter, so hopefully some more wallaby for us and the dogs. We took out a batch of fish to thaw to mince for the cats, but it's in fridge, have to wait for chaos Tuesday...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Not one of immortal days, just eternal

Well, this morning we went to the taste of Flinders thing which was, sadly, a real let down. Look, the island produces (commercially) some of the best garlic, olive oil, salad leaves, wallaby, crayfish, abalone, honey, beef, lamb, garfish, muttonbirds. That's without going onto things like the home made produce or handcrafts, and the game animals. I expected - at least, to have products made from the above and raw materials (ie. local mayo and soap from olive oil, nougat from honey etc... and the raw materials on sale. This is marketing, for which I have all the natural talent of your average zombie selling zit cream to teenagers. We had the CWA doing tea and scones, some local jam (for sale not taste and buy) and Freckles and the Bakery selling... their normal produce, someone else selling pies... Some of which might be quite nice, but not exactly a gastronomic introduction to the island's treasures.

Which brought me to the rest of my day which was... marketing. Well, trying to set things up to do so. Doing all the legwork which I have zero skills at and no real grasp of, for goodreads, trying to get my webpage sorted, trying to get it so I could have amazon links on it. Trying, futilely to get facebook and twitter and google+ and linkedin and uncletomcobblysillyness all to interelate. I object to giving my time and content as free add ons, to publishers and retailers for the around 10% they give me of my cover price - if I'm lucky(books you buy in Australia for ludicrous prices... earn me 64 cents, US cents at that. Which I will get in 9-16 months time. Yes, actually, I do resent this), but if I don't do the promotion and marketing -- thank heavens for the help of some friends--It just is not done at all (and yes, oddly, for 90% of the income, I expect 90% of the cost and work to come from that 90%, not 90% from me, and 10% from them. Mr Grumpy here!) Anyway, thank heavens for Tania and O'Mike and Paddy, or my 10% share would be even smaller. I feel getting me to write the blogs is possibly something only I can do. But I can either spend time writing or on social media. Not both. And I am so _not_ a salesman. Certainly not good at blowing my own trumpet! I'm not a computer geek either that has endless hours to spend setting things up. I'm not paid large amounts, so hiring someone to do this is not a possibility (trust me, I would, if I could.). I'm a writer. If people -ie my publishers, retailers or my readers want me to write books... then no, I will not spend much time on twitter. (here endeth the grumble).

Anyway we had two grilled little zebra perch (can only be speared, which is why they're not often on the menu, despite being a delicious and not rare fish). Stuffed with fennel leaves and grilled they were utterly delectable. Life on the island is so much better than life looking at a computer screen in some city, so I should be very grateful, and I am.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bouncing in boats

Well, we went down to Lady Barron (dodging runners on the Pub-to-pub run (Francis, what could appeal more - except better beer too))to go for a trial in my off-island friend's boat-to-be. It's an aluminium tri-hull and handles everything well but turns at speed. I was quite impressed with it in a nasty short chop - Appropriate as the seller is a butcher. We were doing about 23 knots in 2 foot waves and you needed bendy knees - but it had the free-board to let you stand. The tide-race between Flinders and Cape Barren Islands is actually terrifyingly strong - what happens when you put a few big constricting lumps of rock in front of a couple of metres of water... a few miles wide. We really ought to be able to power the islands off that channel.

Unfortunately we didn't stop to catch any fish.

Other than that I've worked a bit, gardened a little - lettuce is coming through very well, and tried a different method with squid wings and tentacles. It was very average, so I probably won't bother again. We use the tubes - both as rings and for stuffing - a lot. I tend use the wings and to lesser extent tentacles for bait - thing is they're pretty good bait for deep water flathead... good in that they catch and good in that the bait stays on. So our supply of wings is quite high, and tubes are not. So I am looking for good uses for squid wings.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Steamed fish?

What is shaoxin rice wine? Or what is it's nearest island-available without breaking the bank equivalent?

I was being very doubtful about steamed fish. My memories of this with butter and parsley - white and quite tasteless are not encouraging. One of our visitors --Young med student -- was saying how delicious it was Chinese style. I must have mentioned this to an Asian friend when we were over Melbourne some months ago - and today he e-mailed me the recipe. I believe they use wrasse (which I make fish cakes from, and feed the cats on) for it, so I'd like to try it as they're among our most common fish - but really not much good in other ways. I think I may get quite a lot of consumer resistance here from Barbs, whose mum had ulcers and liked steamed, plain, fish. But I'll try it. Once.